Chris Voss is the author of the major bestselling book, “Never Split The Difference: Negotiating As If Your Life Depended On It”, which has been called one of if not the best books on negotiation of all time and was one of the top 10 Best Selling Books of all of the books sold on Amazon for over a year. His 2020 Masterclass has been one of the most popular Masterclasses on the platform, and his many videos online of his speeches and interviews have millions of views.
Chris was the lead international kidnapping negotiator for the FBI, as well as the FBI’s hostage negotiation representative for the National Security Council’s Hostage Working Group. Before that, he served as the lead Crisis Negotiator for the New York City Division of the FBI.
Chris has been featured widely by the media including with Anderson Cooper on CNN, on CNBC, in TIME magazine, The New York Times, The Wall Street Journal, Forbes, Inc., Fast Company, Fortune, The Washington Post, and many more.
Derek Gaunt is the bestselling author of “Ego Authority Failure”. He was a commander of hostage negotiations teams in the Washington, DC metropolitan area, and today is a hostage negotiation and incident command subject matter expert who frequently speaks at hostage negotiations and SWAT conferences across the country.
Derek spent the majority of his law enforcement career in the Criminal Investigations Section as a detective, supervisor and eventually commander of major crimes. In 1997, he took his passion for interpersonal communications to the next level, becoming a hostage negotiator.
Derek Gaunt and Chris Voss have been friends for 20 years – which makes this discussion entertaining, collaborative, and quite memorable! They have been teaching, training, and giving people negotiation superpowers together for the last decade. Here, they deliver tangible takeaways and tools that you can use immediately to make you a better negotiator, communicator, and leader! Using Chris and Derek’s tools, anyone will learn how to get what they want in negotiations, but also how to communicate better with anyone in their lives – employees, teammates, children, spouses, clients, and customers!
Watch the episode here:
Listen to the podcast here:
Chris Voss & Derek Gaunt – Two Top Hostage Negotiators Share Secrets – Virtually Speaking
Joining me are Chris Voss and Derek Gaunt. Chris Voss is the author of the major bestseller, Never Split the Difference: Negotiating As If Your Life Depended On It. It has been called one of the best books on negotiation of all time and was one of the Top Ten Bestselling Books out of all the books sold on Amazon for over a year. His 2020 masterclass has been one of the most popular masterclasses on the entire platform. His many videos online of speeches and interviews have millions and millions of views. Chris was the lead international kidnapping negotiator for the FBI, as well as the FBI’s hostage negotiation representative for the National Security Council’s Hostage Working Group. Before that, he served as the Lead Crisis Negotiator for the New York City Division of the FBI. Chris has been featured widely by the media including Anderson Cooper on CNN, CNBC, Time Magazine, The New York Times, Wall Street Journal, Forbes, Inc. Magazine, Fast Company, Fortune, The Washington Post and many more.
Derek Gaunt is the best-selling author of Ego, Authority, Failure. He was a commander of hostage negotiations teams in the Washington DC metropolitan area. He’s now a hostage negotiation and incident command subject matter expert who frequently speaks at hostage negotiations and SWAT conferences all across the country. Derek spent the majority of his law enforcement career in the criminal investigation section as a detective, supervisor and eventually commander of major crimes. In ’97, he took his passion for interpersonal communications to the next level, becoming a hostage negotiator. Chris and Derek had been friends for many years. They’ve been teaching, training and giving people negotiation superpowers for the last decade. Join me with Chris and Derek.
It’s my pleasure.
I’m doing well. Thanks for the invite. We appreciate it.
Both of these books you have written are incredible. Derek, Ego, Authority, Failure and Chris Voss, Never Split the Difference, a book that took off and was dominating the charts and still is in Amazon. Derek, I know your book is doing well and critically acclaimed. I loved reading both of them because I’m in sales and I run a company. This applies to anybody who’s a leader and doing anything having to do with sales. Negotiation and leadership are exactly what you are experts in. These books were written based on your entire career. It was almost like you were taking notes on your career and at the end, when you decided to stop, it’s like, “I’m going to write this book based on everything I learned and I’m going to share it with everybody in the private sector.” You have been working together in the private sector for many years.If you want to go fast, go alone. If you want to go far, go as a team. Click To Tweet
In the private sector, probably about ten years. I’ve been lucky enough to know Derek since 2001, 2002. If you want to go fast, go alone. If you want to go far, go as a team. Derek and I have been on the same team for a long time. He’s been making me smarter for a long time. We’ve known each other for quite a while.
I knew you first and you said to me, Chris, “You got to represent this guy. You’ve got to know Derek Gaunt.” When I found out he was another hostage negotiator, I was excited. I’m assuming, you both lived in DC at the time you met. Is that where you met? Chris, you were there as head of the FBI negotiating hostages and kidnappings. Derek started in a negotiating taskforce as well between three different law enforcement agencies in the DC area. My fantasy is you met in a situation where something was happening and you had to work together to solve that problem.
We were introduced by a mutual friend. It was a woman that I was seeing socially in the DC area, in the office, WFO. She was also involved in the negotiation community locally. She and Derek were leading the negotiation community in the nation’s capital. I came to learn that Derek was the most important hostage negotiator in Washington DC, and that includes federal agencies. He wasn’t almost visible. I was on the most visible team. Everybody wanted to know what Derek was thinking and doing when I was there. I was lucky enough to get introduced by a mutual friend.
You’d heard about him before you met him. Who does a hostage negotiator want to hang out with more than another hostage negotiator?
Yeah, for obvious reasons, and not the least of which was we were so consumed by the discipline. We were always looking for somebody that was going to make us better. The ones that were truly immersed in it. We were always looking to get better. Chris was in the ivory tower. He was at CNU at Quantico. That’s where they speak from on high, and all other local and federal negotiators go and do. To get my hands on a guy like that that wasn’t going to condescend to me because I was a local was huge. When she hooked us up, I said, “I got to ride coattail on this guy for as long as I can to learn as much as I can.”
It’s obvious when I read both of your books that from the beginning, you were students. You were excited and you were passionate about getting better at this. Chris, you were told to do something that the lady who told you to do it told many people to do, which was the 911 emergency phone bank. She said, “Go ahead and do that for a year,” because you had no experience but you wanted to do it. I don’t know exactly who she was, but you went into the phone bank and most people didn’t do it, who she told to do it. You then came back and said, “I did it.” She said, “You did?”
It was a suicide crisis hotline. There’s a saying, “Never take advice from somebody with who you wouldn’t trade places.” A lot of people are willing to give you advice. If you’re not willing to trade places with them, that should be your screening mechanism as to whether or not you should listen to them. The second part of it is you better follow that advice. I went to the woman in charge of the negotiation team in New York, and I want her to be on the team. She rejected me.
You were already at the FBI. Was she in the FBI?
Yeah. In the FBI, most law enforcement agencies like Derek and my agencies operated the same way. You become a member of the agency, and then you become a negotiator as an additional duty and additional specialty. That’s the way life takes you, between what you want and what the universe wants for you. There’s a joke that when you want to make God laugh, tell Him your plans. Maybe it works out, maybe it doesn’t.
Derek, you as well didn’t start off as a negotiator and you’ve felt a void that you needed to fill.
It was a challenge as much as a void. I started my law enforcement career like everybody else, I was pushing a patrol car up and down the road. At the time that I came on was the time that crack had taken hold of America. Most of the law enforcement’s focus was on that war on drugs. We were taking an aggressive stance in that war on drugs. I was only pushing the patrol car for eighteen months before I got tapped to move to a narcotic unit. It was a street-level narcotics unit. We were out there enforcing street level narcotics deals. What I quickly found out was there was a drug nexus to almost every other crime in the city. These people that we were encountering were sitting on information about other things. They were sitting on information about robberies and burglaries. Some of them were sitting on information about bodies.
I found that if I could say specific things in a specific manner, I could elicit specific responses to get people to cooperate enough with me to give me information that they otherwise wouldn’t. I said, “This is pretty cool. I want to be a detective.” I applied for and became a detective in ‘94. I up my game and started getting all of this specialized training. I took my communication skills to another level. I then found out that there’s yet another level. There’s this thing called hostage negotiation. I wound up role-playing for a couple of exercises. That’s what lit the fuse for me. I said, “This is my calling. This is what I want to do.” In ‘97, I competed for 1 of 5 slots on the team and I was selected. I haven’t looked back since.
I got a question, Derek. When you became a detective, was that when the chief took you to lunch or breakfast?
Where he’s going with this is outside of being a hostage negotiator, there is nothing that I wanted to do more than become a detective. The Detective Bureau in most agencies is the bureau that the police call when they need help. They call the detectives. I wanted to be the A-type of the A-types. I always wanted to be a detective. When I got selected, I was so thrilled. As far as I knew, they wanted me to come up and do data entry. I was fine with that because I got the gold shield. I moved from the silver shield to the gold shield, which meant I’m a detective. I can wear suits. I can wear a cross draw holster. I was excited to get there.Never take advice from somebody who wouldn't trade places with a lot of people. Click To Tweet
I’m bopping around the office, having a good time. I go to my pigeonhole to pull out my mail. In that pigeonhole is a note addressed to me from the deputy chief, who’s the only person above him is the chief, but this deputy chief was in charge of investigations. He says, “Dear Derek, congratulations on your selection to the Detective Bureau. We’re glad to have you here. You’re going to make a significant contribution to what we do. As is customary, I like to take all new detectives to breakfast, to welcome them aboard. Please give me several dates next week when you’re available to sit down with me over breakfast and we can talk about your future as a new detective.” I was like, “This guy, I can’t even believe he knows my name. This is incredible. I’m going to have breakfast with the deputy chief.” On the back of the note, I said, “Dear Chief, thank you so much for the opportunity. Thank you so much for the invitation I’m available this day.” I folded it in half and I slide it back into his pigeonhole.
The next day, I come into the office and the deputy chief says, “I need to see you in my office.” I’m like, “I’ve been up here a day and he’s calling me in with that tone?” It’s not looking good. I go into the office. He’s sitting at his desk and he’s holding up the note. He goes, “Do you mind telling me what this is?” The color drained from my face. I felt myself getting woozy there. I felt all the blood drain out of my head as if I’m going to faint because I knew at that moment that I had been duped. He let out this Santa Claus like belly laugh, “It looks like somebody got you.” He wasn’t in on it at all. He goes, “I can’t believe they did that to you. These guys are something. We’ll show them. I haven’t done this before, but I am going to take you to breakfast to make things right with you.” I was like, “Thank you, sir.” I walked out of the office. It’s the walk of shame because I know people are looking at me. As I’m walking by, there’s a detective, his first name is Tommy. He’s from New York City. He still has a New York City accent. I can hear him call over the partition, “Derek, what day did he pick?” I knew it was him.
That’s a great way to start off a relationship though. How great was it that he was so cool? You talk about that a lot in your book, how you relate to your people and how your people come first. He immediately shifted into empathy. I’m sure you had a great relationship from that point on. You had so much more rapport than any other guy who that trick wasn’t played on.
He made my landing there a lot softer than it otherwise would have been. Tommy and I went on to be great friends. I wound up getting promoted through the ranks and he never did. He wound up working for me as a detective in the Detective Bureau.
That reminds me, Chris, in your book, of a time you were had, which was at a prestigious school. If you could tell the story. I believe it was at Harvard who teaches negotiation at the highest level, and maybe it was the premier place to learn negotiation. You were super excited to meet the head of that department and that program. Tell us what happened with that. That’s a great story. Similar to Derek, he asked you to join him for coffee in the morning before you went about your day with him touring the Harvard campus.
He was Bob Mnookin, a smart guy. One of the reasons why we in the FBI decided to collaborate with them anyway is because he’d written a book called Beyond Winning. The second chapter in that book was the tension between empathy and assertiveness. It’s one of the best chapters on empathy written anywhere. Even if you’re not an attorney, that book is worth it just for that chapter. In the chapter, he says from the Harvard perspective that empathy is not about agreeing with the other side. It’s not even liking it. It’s just completely understanding where somebody’s coming from. I remember reading that, I’m like, “We’re on the same sheet of music with these guys. We got to collaborate.” I ended up there. After collaborating I’ve introduced myself to Bob. He invites me to come into the office and we sat down. He has a secretary come in. She brings a tape recorder and he’s like, “Let’s do a little role play. If I was a kidnapper and I had your kid, what kind of strategy would you have?” At this point in time, I know where this is going.
Gabriella Blum is there. She’s an Israeli Defense Forces Attorney who’s there on fellowship. He wants to spar in front of some other people. I’m like, “I wouldn’t do too much. I’ll just ask some open-ended questions.” The most dangerous negotiation is the one you don’t know you’re in. We’re already in the negotiation. I’m in a process of trying to lull him to sleep a little bit. I know I’m going to ask open-ended questions. I know he’s got no idea how powerful they are. If I tell him that, I’m telling the truth, but he’s still going to get caught off guard. I go, “I’m going to ask some open-ended questions.” He goes, “Voss, I got your son, $1 million. Yes or no. Right now. Tell me. $1 million by tomorrow morning or I’ll kill your son.” I go, “How am I supposed to do that?” That is an open-ended question, but it’s loaded. He blinks at me saying, “$1 million by tomorrow morning.” I say, “How am I supposed to do that? How do I know you are going to let him go? How am I supposed to pay if I don’t know you’re going to let him go?”
He blinks at me. He doesn’t know how to answer. It was back and forth for a while. Finally, Gabriella is sitting there and it’s about 3 or 4 minutes of this. She goes like, “Don’t let him do that to you.” He’s like, “You try.” She jumps in. I just looked at her and I go, “How am I supposed to do that?” I start the whole thing all over again. He’s like, “I can take him. I’m going to get back in. I want to jump back in.” This has been going on for a while. Finally, I got to ease up on him because I got them running in circles. It’s something as simple as an open-ended question. If you know the right words, and the late-night FM DJ voice, which Derek does so well, you get people. That’s what negotiation is. It’s about precisely selected words that what you say and what they hear are two different things.
What would most people have said there if not that?
Nobody would ever say that. There’s a difference between being responsive and reactive. It’s a fine line because most people think they got to answer the question, “$1 million by tomorrow morning, yes or no?” They feel that somehow if they don’t ask that question, it’s going to blow things up. A great negotiation strategy works on a number of levels. It worked for us in kidnapping because it’s a legitimate question. That’s why your reaction was like, “Most people would say that wouldn’t they?” Nobody’s ever said that, but when you’re standing back from a neutral position, you say to yourself, “It’s a legitimate question,” which is exactly the reaction that I’m hitting the kidnapper with. I got to ask him a question that they have to admit is a legitimate question.
It triggers what Danny Conoman would call slow thinking or deep in-depth thinking or the “stop you in your tracks” thinking. It instantly and completely changes the context. Because people love to be asked how to do something, the person who is being asked a question doesn’t get angry. It feels deferential to not only the structure of the question but the tone of voice that I use. I’m using an innocent, almost helpless tone of voice. I’ve gained the upper hand or given the other person the illusion of control, which even if somebody’s sitting back and listening to the interaction, which when you’re dealing with a kidnapper or a hostage-taker, you assume somebody is, you’re better off that way. They wouldn’t say, “He can’t ask you that they.” They’d hear it and they’d sit back and go, “That’s a legitimate question.” It passes muster all the way around. You gain the upper hand. People on the other side have no idea what happened. I originally got turned on to it from a drug dealer. Speaking of Derek’s drug nexus to everything, there certainly seems to be.
Derek, it seems like you both have a lot of the same opinions on a lot of things. You worked together for several years in the private sector, but your books do have that empathy theme going through. Your books do have the see it from their point of view importance. In sales, my entire goal is to understand where they’re coming from so that I can deliver to them what they are asking for or what they’re envisioning they need. When you’re dealing with a hostage negotiator, did you come up with that on your own, read the same books, come up with it together, or was it something that comes up to anybody who’s good at what you do? I know that not everybody who’s good at what you do comes up with the same thing because there are books that are written about the opposite way of doing things as opposed to your books. I know that Never Split the Difference was a book that had a major differentiating factor compared to all the other books in negotiation which was getting to know rather than you got to get to yes. It’s getting to know which confused me at first, as it probably does most people, but then understanding that when you get them to tell you why it’s a no and what you’re doing, it’s interesting how this is all wrapped around, seeing things from their point of view and empathy being so important.
I’m not the sharpest knife in the drawer. I was told that it works. I test drove it and I found out that it works. Where Chris and I diverged from other published works is it’s for that reason. It’s because we test drove it. We’re not telling you it works because we think it does. We’re telling you it works because we’ve seen it work. Does it work in leadership? Yes. Does it work in sales? Yes. Does it work in any environment where you’re dealing with a human being? The answer is yes. That’s why the techniques that we talk about in Ego, Authority, Failure are similar, if not identical, to what they are in Never Split the Difference. The purpose of writing the book was for us to show you that it’s good, effective and great in this environment because both environments are dealing with human beings. Once you get your head around that human nature response which dictates that fear is the ultimate driver of decision-making and behavior, that rules the day for everyone. Once you get your head around that, it doesn’t matter if you’re talking about buying a $2 million building or getting your seven-year-old to eat their vegetables, it’s all the same thing. As long as you understand the human nature response, the skills are applicable in every single difficult conversation.
You teach and write about this stuff and it seems like common sense. It seems like, “Why wouldn’t I be thinking of where this other person is coming from and what they’re thinking? Why wouldn’t I care?” When you finally learn this stuff or hear it, you say, “This is how it should be. This is the right way.” You have many practiced skills and tools that you’ve learned and teach, mirrors, labels, Active Listening Skills, ALS as you call it in your book, Derek. There’s one thing that is interesting about labels and mirrors, and you can both talk about it. There’s a similarity between both of them. In other words, labels are calling out something that somebody else is saying, but then mirroring is also saying what somebody else is saying. Can you tell us a little bit about what the real differences are between the two? They could sound similar.The most dangerous negotiation is the one you don't know you're in. Click To Tweet
A label is a verbal observation. It isn’t any more complicated than that. It’s like saying, “You got on a dark gray charcoal coat or jacket.” That’s just an observation. It’s a simple skill depending upon the words that you picked. It’s the MacGyver skill. It hits the brain in a special way. It triggers contemplation internally with you, but also encourages you to now give me a direct and unvarnished feed on what your thinking. It does not only trigger your contemplation, but chances are you’re going to start simply articulating what you’re thinking about. It’s going to come straight out of your mouth in an unvarnished fashion. You can’t get that with a question. I can trigger you to tell me the truth in some ways. I had a client once that said labels unlock the flood gates of truth talk. Mirror is a little bit different thing. I’m not making a verbal observation. I’m repeating anywhere from 1 to 3 words that you just said. It hits your brain in a different way. A little bit of a similar reaction is I’m probably going to get an unvarnished download of what’s going through your brain.
You’re seeing that person and you’re telling them, “I see you. I see where you’re coming from.” You’re letting them know, “I’m paying attention to you.”
You let them know you’re paying attention. My son, Brandon, between Derek, Brandon and I, we create all the material that The Black Swan Group puts out. Brandon calls it thought connectors. It’s going to connect thoughts, then you’re going to continue to talk about it. The great thing about a mirror is you’re going to use it in different words. If you were to mirror me now to repeat the last 1 or 3 words that I said, and you’d say it in different words, I’d probably go, “Yeah.” You paraphrase a little bit, you expand, you dig in, you add depth to what you said when all you did to get me to say a whole bunch more was to go in different words. It’s ridiculously simple.
The interesting thing I’ve found out about mirrors, and I’m interested to hear Derek’s reaction. We had some people that love mirrors almost to the exclusion of everything else. The ones that I’ve noticed have both high IQ and high EQ. High IQ, in many ways, is a detriment. When you’re a smart person, all you want to do is show off how smart you are, which means you talk more than you listen. The people that I’ve noticed that are in love with mirrors, because it’s so simple, requires no bandwidth on your part of the mirror, but you get a massive amount of information out of the other side. It’s like hitting them with a magic wand. You came out of Hogwarts and you said, “Expecto talk-o,” and all they do is talk. The people that I’m noticing it doing are both high IQ and high EQ. Derek, have you seen that at all? Do you need to think about it some more?
I have not seen it, but it makes sense that you have because there are fewer skills that you can use, that will convey that you’re dialed in and listening to the other person than when you use a mirror. There is no better way to convey to them that you’re hanging on every word. How good it feels to hear your words coming back into your ears as repeated by someone else. That’s what gets them to expound on a point because when Chris hits them with a mirror subconsciously, they were thinking to themselves, “I’ve been waiting all day for somebody to listen to me to this level. It feels so good that I’m going to give him more.” Because they are high in EQ, the person that is executing the mirror understands at the deepest level that listening is the cheapest and most effective concession that you can make.
Chris has talked about it several times on this show about the simplicity of this skill. These skills have as their foundation, skills that were developed, honed and perfected in law enforcement. What does that mean? We got to keep it simple for cops. We kept it simple for cops because cops wanted something that they could use right away in the spur of the moment without having a psychology degree in order to influence somebody to move in their direction. It translates nicely into the corporate world because most of this stuff is low bandwidth and highly executable.
I heard Malcolm Gladwell say that a lot of leaders screw up the ideas that their subordinates, the people who work for them, their peers or the other C-Suite people whenever somebody has an idea and they bring it to the top leader. A lot of time, the leader isn’t hearing what they’re saying or listening. They’re trying to think of how they can add to it and give you a little, “That’s a good idea, but why don’t you do this?” He said that when you’re at the top of an organization, suggestions become orders. This goes for the military, the generals, the admirals. That’s a big mistake because that’s where you lose the person because you show that you weren’t listening. In leadership, it’s all about listening and empathy, and these are ways of showing it.
It’s great to hear you talk about how easy it is and how effective it can be. I would imagine you are so good at this that you know like, “I’m going to use this tool. I’m going to use that tool.” It’s like a tennis player or a musician. You know, “I’m going to do a triplet here as a drummer. I’m going to do a certain move.” That must be fun for you to be in every negotiation or conversation you’re in because you’re thinking about all these different tools at your disposal. All of us laypeople have to try and learn a couple here and there that we can use and remember to use at the right times.
We’ve got a lot of experience, but when we engage a counterpart, we’re not looking at it as a game because in games, people win, people lose. We’re not salivating at the fact that we’ve got all of these skills at our disposal because the fact of the matter is what skill we’re going to execute, you’re going to tell me. In essence, I’m at bat the entire time and I’m just waiting for you to pitch. I’m listening because you’re going to tell me exactly where this conversation should go. You’re going to tell me exactly what I need to influence you into moving in my direction. I’m just going to sit at the plate and let you pitch, and I’ll figure out which one I want to swing at.
Based on his mood, his demeanor, his level of agitation or cooperativeness, those things are going to tell you how to react and have a conversation with them. It’s not like you’re sitting there going, “I’m going to use these three skills. I probably should use this one.” It becomes instinctual because you’ve been doing it so much, but there’s got to be a moment where you’re like, “I’m happy to hear exactly who they are and where they’re coming from.” It must be intuition with you, but you must feel like, “I’ve been here before with this kind of person, and I know what this person needs.”
The satisfaction for me, and I’ll let Chris speak for himself, is when you get to the driving motivation, the driving dynamic. In every interaction, there’s going to be a presenting dynamic or emotion. There’s going to be a latent dynamic or emotion. There’s going to be that stuff that they are saying, but they’re not saying. When you can pull that out of all the data that they’re giving you, and you give that back to them in whatever fashion, you paraphrase it, you label it or you mirror it, whatever you want to do. When you show that level of recognition to that depth, the connection that you start to make with that other person is phenomenal. Now, you are in a position to move them in the direction that you want to go. Why? Because you listened at that level for long enough that they now trust you.
That thing we’re talking about is what they need is what you found out.
What they’re not saying is what they need. You can stay at the surface level and address their surface-level emotions and dynamics all you want, and you still may not move the needle with them. If you can’t, it’s because you’re missing the latent stuff.
Do you agree with that, Chris?Labels unlock the flood gates of truth talk. Click To Tweet
I agree with him 100%. Derek and I are almost always on the same sheet of music in terms of our analysis and our assessment. We’ve had a colleague who might ask us a question, me, Derek and Brandon, but we’ll answer it differently, and we all like the other guy’s answer, “I hadn’t thought of that. That’s pretty cool.” There was another thing I was thinking about though too. Your question was you made it sound like the path to mastery, to the black belt. It would take a long time. That’s true. Simultaneous with that, your biggest learning jump will be at the very beginning. If you start to want to learn this stuff, yes, we’ve got nine skills. We’ve got a variety of strategies. You start working on this at all inside of a week, you’re going to make a difference.
It’s almost a downside because if somebody picks up Never Split the Difference, the first skill that they learn is, “How am I supposed to do that?” They start hitting it out of the park. I’ll get emails on LinkedIn like, “I’m making deals I never made before. I’m performing so much better than my colleagues. How am I supposed to do that? I made all this money.” My reaction to that is you took that first big jump. There’s a lot more on the table for you to pick up. You just can’t imagine it because you’ve suddenly jumped ahead forward in what you never expected. That’s why after you picked some of it up, you got to be careful. You don’t stop there because then you start getting into much more nuanced stuff and you continue to make deals.
Not only do you add this since your colleagues. The people that we coach, and Derek is our best coach, start making life-changing deals, and then they start doing them regularly. Most people will have the deal of a lifetime and they’ll only, “Let me tell you about this deal.” It was ten years ago. People that we coach got their last week’s deal and last month’s deal. They’re knocking it down on a regular basis, which is another big difference maker when you come to us and we start to teach you.
One of my favorite things that you teach is the email. There are two different things I think of when it comes to emails. One is, have you given up on this idea? The other one is the self-deprecating or apologetic version of yourself. Before I ever met you, I always thought to myself as the CEO of this company, kill them with kindness. Always be as sweet and nice and understanding. You got to bend over backwards. You can never take anything personally and you got to be nice, but when you hone in on it with your stuff, it’s amazing. I love that email. I’ve used it and I still am hesitant to use it. It’s so funny. It feels awkward even if I’ve done it a hundred times. It still is so counterintuitive. Have you given up on this idea?
It is your wiring. Anything that’s counterintuitive, you just haven’t built the neurosynaptic connections yet. Get your reps in and then it becomes part of your arsenal. That’s what we teach people.
I have another question for you that I’d love to hear both of you tell me your answer on. When you’re negotiating with someone who’s not the decision-maker because there’s a committee or a board who makes that decision collectively, or this is the second in charge or the person that goes out there to get all the information and then delivers it back to the CEO or the president. You think you’re dealing with the decision-maker and then you find out early on that it’s not the decision-maker. Is it about getting that person to become an advocate for you and to champion what you’re saying, so that when they’re in that meeting with that board or with that president, that they’re hopefully saying the stuff that you told them to say or told them about what you’re selling? How do you deal with that situation?
Part of what you said is spot on. You got to turn them into an advocate. You got to be careful because the decision-maker pushed them out front for a reason. You have to respect their hierarchy within the organization. You have to do what you can to turn that person into a teammate for a problem-solving event, which is getting your idea, your proposal, your ask into the hands of the decision-maker. There’s going to be a lot of skills and strategy involved with ensuring that they execute the way that you want them to execute, but the basic foundational skills are the same. You’re going to start off with the accusations audit. You probably are in a bad spot right now. You’re probably getting pressure from the other side to make sure that the decision-maker doesn’t get asks for proposals or ideas put in front of him that are going to waste his time.
You’re going to try to take all of those negatives out of their head because they’re getting pressure from their side. The sooner that you recognize that and take care of it by way of the pre-emptive label, the accusation audit, the better off you’re going to be. They know that they don’t have decision-making power. They’re feeling pressure from not only their side but also from you. The sooner you can alleviate all of that, the sooner you clear up their thinking. The sooner you clear up their thinking, the sooner you can start to mold them into being your advocate in front of the decision-maker.
You want them to know that you’re on their side, but you’re also getting them to be on your side.
You extend tactical empathy first, and then you force it back on yourself when you get to whatever your goal or objective is. Tactical empathy is always the precursor for making your ask.
Rethink the entire situation. Chances are the person you’re talking to, more important than the decision-maker, is a deal killer. I can guarantee you that that person you’re talking to can kill your deal. The more you try to get around them, what are they encouraged to do? Kill your deal. They’re at least capable of partially killing your deal, tripping you up, handicapping you if they don’t like it. It will never be mean to someone who could hurt you by doing nothing. What happens if they don’t lift a finger? They killed your deal without lifting a finger. They are at least a source of information. There’s no way that it’s not an asset, which is why we’ve always taught people that there’s always a team on the other side. If you get too focused on the decision-maker or the DM, you’re going to miss your deal killers and they’re going to kill you.
You talk about that in your book and you even say that it’s a good idea to ask, “Is there anything that can kill this deal later? Is there anything that we should know about that we need to take care of now?” That’s when you’re at that final stage.
You get out of that yes-oriented question. You’re asking somebody to close down a question, structuring it like you’re fishing for yes. Switch it around and ask a calibrated question. How has this broken down in the past? Who’s involved? It feels like they’re going to have to live with this deal. It’ll switch into principally what or how questions. What causes this to break down? What experience have you had with this in the past? You start smoking out implementation issues and obstacle issues, which they’re more likely to answer if you pose it as a calibrated question, which is a what or a how question. It’s pretty much the exclusion of all other questions. You’re trying to create a vision in their head where they begin to think this through with you, and now you’re in a completely different conversation.
Thank you for answering that question. I have another situation for you, which I know a lot of people deal with. I’m interested to hear how you think about this too. You’re in the position where you’re setting your price. You’re dealing with the customer and the customer says, “Everybody else we deal with gives us a discount because of who we are. We’re the best company on the planet. We’re the biggest and the most important. We’re a nonprofit, a school, a church. We’re doing great things with kids,” which are all great things. There’s got to be a fine line in there with empathy. You still have to be empathetic and reflect that you realize that all they said is true, but also you have to put your foot down. You have to say, “We can’t give you that discount.” How do you negotiate that negotiation?It's not being in a hurry to make the deal. It's finding out what's possible before you jump into it. Click To Tweet
First of all, you don’t cut your price. You got to believe in your bones that your price is worth it. Why are they asking for a discount? Are they not getting their money’s worth or because they’re screwing with you? You got to know which character you’re dealing with. You proceed with an application of tactical empathy and probably a label of some sort because you need to get a clear picture of what’s going on the other side. What’s valuable to you? Can you pivot into something other than dollars that’s worth more? That’s a secondary issue. Dollars are a medium of exchange. What do you buy with your dollars? Maybe they could give you something even better. I’d never been so sure of what you want that you wouldn’t take something better.
We talk about this as an information-gathering process. At first is a little bit of a diagnosis, “What’s going on here?” Secondly, you’re going to figure out where you want to be after you get that. My first response to that is if somebody wants a lower price, I’ll probably throw a label to something to the extent of, “It sounds like you don’t feel like you’re getting your money’s worth.” I need to see how they react to that. If they’re going to express to me why they’re not getting their money’s worth, now we’ve got one issue. They’re going to stress, “No, it’s not that we’re not getting our money’s worth, we just ask everybody for a discount.” What are they doing? They’re testing me. Do I think what I have is worth the money? If I cave in, I probably didn’t think that what I had was worth the money. You need a discount from somebody like that because they can’t hold their own in the negotiation. It’s a variety of information gathering behavior. They want to see, “Can they push you over? Are you taking a small show?” It’s not being in a hurry to make the deal. It’s finding out what’s possible before you jump into it. Derek, what do you think?
To add to that, it goes back to motivation. We get so wrapped around the axle when we hear, “Cut your price or we’re going somewhere else.” When we don’t try to find out what’s motivating the statement. Stop worrying about what they said and figure out why they said it. Do they think they’re not getting their money’s worth or are they just jerking around with me? On top of that, you have to start to engage in this conversation early on in the conversation. You better ask them why they are choosing to do business with you in the first place.
They’re just trying to reach above what they can afford in a lot of cases. They’re trying to get something great.
Everybody wants the shiniest thing for the cheapest price. To Chris’s point, you’re either the fool or the favorite in the game. If you don’t know which one you are, I can tell you who you are. If you haven’t figured it out on your own, I can tell you who you are. Going back to what he said, if you are the fool, there’s no reason for you to cut your price. If you are the favorite, there’s no reason to cut your price. Either way, there’s no reason to cut your price. What do you need to do? Figure out why is this person contemplating doing business with me? You ask that question directly, “Why are you choosing to do business with us? You’ve got 50 competitors you could choose from, why are we in a discussion right now?” Here’s what that does. If they intend on doing business with you, they will have a robust response. That robust response is going to be your value proposition coming out of their mouth.
There is nothing more powerful when they speak it and you never have to. You’ve handcuffed them to that rule of consistency. People want to be consistent in word and thought and in action. They can’t tell you on the one hand, at the beginning of the conversation, “Chris Lee, you’re the greatest thing since sliced bread. We love everything you do, and we’re willing to work with you.” You get to price at the end of the conversation and they’re like, “We can’t afford that.” Those two things don’t line up. They can’t tell you on one hand that you’re the greatest thing, and then tell you on the other hand that they’re not willing to pay your price. People want to be consistent in word, thought and action. That works to your advantage when you are getting to the point where you are going to start talking about price points.
You can almost bring up the fact that they might have said something like that at the beginning of the conversation.
You may have to do a little time travel, “When you said we were the greatest things since sliced bread, what did that mean to you?”
This is such great stuff for anybody. That’s why your books are so great. That’s why everybody wants to hire you as speakers. Chris, your masterclass, at one time at least, was the number one most popular masterclass of all the masterclasses with all these celebrities and everybody else in there selling what they do and how to do it. People wanted to know, “How do I negotiate? How do I be a better leader?” That’s why everybody loves you. I am happy we got to do this. Thank you both so much for joining me. I know you are both busy and I probably owe you some money for this. Thank you so much.
Thanks for the invite. I appreciate it. I had a good time.
It’s a pleasure. I always enjoy talking to you, Chris. I always enjoy being involved in our conversation where I can hear what Derek is thinking.
- Chris Voss
- Derek Gaunt
- Never Split the Difference: Negotiating As If Your Life Depended On It
- Ego, Authority, Failure
- Beyond Winning
About Chris Voss
Chris Voss is author of the national best-seller “Never Split The Difference: Negotiating As If Your Life Depended On It”. It was named one of the seven best books on negotiation. Chris Voss, speaker, has used his many years of experience in international crisis and high stakes negotiations as an FBI agent to develop a unique program and team that applies these globally proven techniques to the business world. He and his team have helped companies secure and close better deals, save money, and solve internal communication problems between senior management and employees.
Chris was the lead international kidnapping negotiator for the Federal Bureau of Investigation. He was also the FBI’s hostage negotiation representative for the National Security Council’s Hostage Working Group. Before becoming the FBI lead international kidnapping negotiator, Chris served as the lead Crisis Negotiator for the New York City Division of the FBI. Chris was a member of the New York City Joint Terrorist Task Force for 14 years. He was the case agent on such cases as TERRSTOP (the Blind Sheikh Case – Sheikh Omar Abdel-Rahman) and the TWA Flight 800 catastrophe. Chris negotiated the surrender of the first hostage taker to give up in the Chase Manhattan bank robbery hostage-taking.
During Chris’s 24-year tenure in the FBI, he was trained in the art of negotiation by not only the FBI but Scotland Yard and Harvard Law School. He is also a recipient of the Attorney General’s Award for Excellence in Law Enforcement and the FBI Agents Association Award for Distinguished and Exemplary Service.
Chris has taught business negotiation in the MBA program as an adjunct professor at University of Southern California’s Marshall School of Business and Georgetown University’s McDonough School of Business. He has also taught business negotiation at Harvard University, guest lectured at The Kellogg School of Management at Northwestern University, The IMD Business School in Lausanne, Switzerland and The Goethe School of Business in Frankfurt, Germany.
Chris has been featured in TIME, Business Insider, Entrepreneur, Inc., Fast Company, Fortune, The Washington Post, SUCCESS Magazine, Squawk Box, CNN, ABC News, and more.
About Derek Gaunt
Derek Gaunt is the former leader and commander of hostage negotiations teams in Washington DC for 20 years, the author of Ego, Authority, Failure. Derek is a lecturer, coach, author, and trainer with 29 years of law enforcement experience.
He is a hostage negotiation and incident command subject matter expert, well versed in de-escalating emotions and returning people to a normal functioning level for better decision-making and behavioral change. Derek’s passion for interpersonal communications began when he was selected as a detective in the Criminal Investigations Section of a municipal police agency.
Derek spent the majority of his law enforcement career in the Criminal Investigations Section as a detective, supervisor and eventually commander of major crimes. In 1997, he took his passion for interpersonal communications to the next level, becoming a hostage negotiator. Once he became a supervisor, his passion transitioned from “doing” to teaching the concepts to others.
Derek frequently speaks at hostage negotiations conferences across the country. He is now working for the Black Swan Group, strategic business advisory company, traveling the US and around the world, instructing organizations in how to apply hostage negotiations practices and principles to the business world.
He has delivered seminars, workshops, and in-house training to a variety of corporate clients including Jetblue, Google, Facebook, Harris and Kronos. He has also instructed at national and international business schools. His presentations are engaging and filled with useful techniques for understanding human behavior to improve relationships and accelerate business outcomes.
Love the show? Subscribe, rate, review, and share!